PCT Thru-hike 2015, By the Numbers

A bit later than we had hoped (like our finishing the hike), but we’ve been busy.

Campo, CA - 4/12/2015

Southern Terminus, Campo, CA – 4/12/2015


Northern Terminus, Manning Park, British Columbia – 9/25/2015


Mount Ashland/Hwy 99 Trailhead – 10/20/2015

The Miles
Campo, CA to Ashland, OR – 1,716
Cascade Locks, OR to Manning Park, BC – 515
Cascade Locks, OR to Ashland, OR – 428

The Elevation Gain
Campo, CA to Ashland, OR – 314,206′
Cascade Locks, OR to Manning Park, BC – 111,095′
Cascade Locks, OR to Ashland, OR – 61,912′

Total Elevation Gain = 487,213′
Mount Everest Summit = 29,209′
Number of Everest’s climbed = 16.7

The Days
April 12 – October 20, 2015 = 192
Zero Days = 26
Hiking Days = 166

Average Miles per Day
192 Days = 13.8
166 Days = 15.7

Favorite Parts
Jen –
CA – Vasquez Rocks County Park
OR – Three Sisters Wilderness
WA – Northern Cascades

Bill –
CA – Sonora Pass Region
OR – Mount Jefferson – Three Sisters Wilderness
WA – Northern Cascades

Pairs of shoes (each) = 5
Pairs of socks used = 12
Pairs of pants/kilts = 7
Pairs of underwear = 5
Number of shirts = 3
Number of backpacks used = 5
Number of tents used = 1
Number of NSAIDS taken = 0

With weather being such a big factor, why did you choose to hike northbound instead of southbound? During the planning stage, months ahead of the actual hike, the weather encountered is anybody’s guess. So we look at averages.  The biggest factor is water, with the Southern California stretch being most problematic. Heading northbound in April, many water sources are already drying up, even after a normal winter.  If we had gone southbound, we wouldn’t have been able to start until mid-June, based on average snowpack in the Washington Cascades. That would have got us into the Southern California desert in October/November after a dry summer.  By then, even the most reliable water sources could be stressed or completely dried up, meaning much longer water carries than we experienced going northbound.  While there were many other considerations going into our choice to hike northbound, water availability was the largest determining factor.

How much weight did you lose? Good question, since neither one of us focused on it.  We knew we would lose weight, but didn’t weigh in before or after.  But it wasn’t insignificant. Jen went from a snug size 14 to very comfortable in size 2 clothes.  I have a similar story – I was stretching the limits of a 36″ waistband, but two days after we finished, I was able to comfortably slide into a pair of 28″ waist jeans that Jen had bought for herself. Guesstimating a weight loss tally for the both of us, we figure we lost the equivalent of a 7th grader.  The downside is now having to buy clothes that fit.

How did you keep things powered for the hike?  Early on we used solar chargers, but didn’t have much success.  Our first charger with built-in battery was dead on arrival; the company offered to refund our money only if we removed our negative review of the product. The review stands.  Then we learned of a different company that made similar solar charges with built-in batteries.  We ordered one and it worked great, but it didn’t have enough capacity for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 that we were using for photography, blogging and navigation. Then a fellow hiker passed on a solar panel after he had upgraded.  This solar panel worked great for us through Southern California and into the Sierra.  Then we dealt with a week of daily rain showers and thunderstorms, so had very little opportunity to charge, which did cause some issues.  We continued to have issues through Northern California as we spent most of our days in the forest, then dealt with thick smoke.  For Oregon and Washington we switched to a portable battery that had enough capacity to charge the phone at least five times.  When we would get into a town, we would recharge the battery.  In those two states we never worried about the phone.  If it got low, an hour or so on the battery and the phone was completely recharged.  For those that are curious, it was an Anker 15,000 mAh battery.  Totally worth the weight penalty over a straight solar panel.

Hitchhiking?  Aren’t you afraid?  Well, initially, especially since we had never done it.  But soon it was a very comfortable way to travel. Most of the roads that we had to hitch were traveled mainly by locals who knew what we were doing (even now we wouldn’t consider hitching at an Interstate rest stop).  Rarely did we get picked up by anyone who wasn’t aware of the trail and hikers.

What’s the next adventure? What’s next on the bucket list? What are you going to do to top this?  Neither one of us have a bucket list, instead taking things as they come.  We’ll continue to live and do the things we enjoy without a need to “top this”.

When are you doing the AT/CDT, or your next thru-hike.? We aren’t.  We enjoyed our experience, but won’t do one like that again.  Instead, we see the value in shorter section hikes of up to a month where we don’t feel the need to crank out 25+ mile days just to finish.  It will be nice to do 12-15 mile days where we would have the time to swim in all of those lakes that we passed.

Thank you to all of you that supported us along the way!


Wet to the End

With hope of drying out overnight, we slept hard.  That is, until the rain woke us up and we had to close up the tent.

Will we ever learn?

Luckily the rain was short-lived, but the rapid cool down afterwards meant plenty of condensation. We were going to remain soaked.

Any chance of viewing the Sky Lakes below us was short-lived as the clouds moved back in.  But it made for some beautiful hiking.


A full day in the forest as we approached Mount McLoughlin, a very Fuji-esque ancient volcano that is always prominent in the southern Oregon sky.  But we wouldn’t see much of it, thanks to the clouds and trees. By late afternoon we were on the lower flanks of the mountain and too close to see it.

Day 190 – 22 / 2,572 (1,771)

A few thousand feet lower than we were the morning before, the tent finally dried out overnight.  But clouds meant that we still wouldn’t see Mount McLoughlin as we hiked south.

So imagine, if you will…


Here’s a view of the mountain from Lake of the Woods, just a few miles east of the trail, taken in summer of ’14.

The clouds remained, occasionally threatening rain, but only occasionally spitting.  The cool weather helped motivate us to keep moving.  That and a lunchtime visit with our trail angel Salt Lick.

One nice thing about getting closer to home is that we get more frequent visits by friends.  That’s handy, especially as we near the end and are constantly wet.  Demoralizing conditions offset by friends.

Soon we met up with Salt Lick, hiked to the next trailhead where he had lunch waiting for us, then more miles down the trail with him as we kept moving.

The rain started again.

Several miles down trail, we bid farewell to Salt Lick as he had to turn around to get back to his car.  We had miles to go, only covering half of our day’s goal by mid-afternoon. The rain started coming down harder, motivating us to move faster.

Mind you, the updates we had been receiving from hikers and hunters along the trail was that the rain was to stop the previous day.  Good thing we didn’t believe them.

By late afternoon we had pushed past 26 miles but still had miles to go to our goal.  Soon after, Jen entered the late stages of experiencing an ultramarathon – “What in the [expletive deleted] do you mean we still have (X number of) miles to go?” and “Why in the [expletive deleted] are we doing this?”.

Recognizing where she was, I kept the conversation light-hearted but on topic, explaining where she was mentally, then comparing it to our friend Lint, who, after finishing the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) to become only the third person to capture his third Triple Crown (thru-hiking the PCT, the Appalachian Trail and the CDT) ran his first 100-mile ultramarathon. I explained that she was where he was mentally at mile 80 and her response was – “Wait a minute.  He ran 100 miles?  Why in the [expletive deleted] would he want to do that?”.  I told her she could ask him in a couple of days.

Then she stepped on a wet rock and her feet went out from under her.  Thanks to her trekking poles she didn’t fall straight on her pack.  Instead, she almost recovered, then went over again, bit didn’t fall.  Almost recovering, she almost went down again, then finally got her feet under her.  The most epic save of the entire hike.  We both laughed for a long while, it broke her funk and she proceeded to drag me the rest of the way to camp in what was our longest mileage for the entire hike – 31.4 miles.

She walked a legit ultra-marathon – 50.7km.  Not just walked, but carried her pack, somewhere in the 30-35lb range.  That’s a lot tougher than “just walking” 50+km.

It was in camp that I had my meltdown.  A paid campsite with an area set up for thru-hikers, there wasn’t a level spot to be had. Once we figured out the best spot, I started setting up the tent. The clay was quite interesting as it was extremely difficult to get a stake in the ground, but as soon as I would put tension on a line, a stake would pull right out.  Sometimes the one attached to the line I was tensioning, sometimes one of the other stakes.  Good thing no one was around to hear my tirade.

I even told Jen that we were going to grab our sleeping bags and sleep on the floor of the bathroom. I didn’t care if we couldn’t turn off the lights.

But she was patient and managed to find rocks for me to use to finishing pitching the tent, where we both slept all night, waiting for more rain.  Rain that finally never arrived.

Day 191 – 31.4 / 2,603 (1,740)

With promise of sun and perhaps some drier feet, we were moving.  We were back in what had basically been our backyard for the past couple of years. We were walking tread that we had both walked many times.  We were both walking tread that we had both helped clear of fallen trees and rehabilitated.  We were both walking tread that we had spent days walking with good friends. That led to stories and laughs.

Then we saw the view we had been waiting for – a look into the Rogue Valley and the end of our journey.


That was also a view of our day’s hike, along the distant ridgeline to the left to Pilot Rock, then to the base of Mount Ashland, the highest peak just right of center.

Soon after we met a couple of classes of elementary school children who were out on the trail getting lessons on the geography and biosphere of everything we could see.  We were a bit of an interruption because the kids wanted to know about our hike.  We wanted to sit in the back of the class and listen to the lesson.

By mid-afternoon we were approaching Pilot Rock and got our first glimpse in many months of the Northern California valleys.  Plus a view of Mount Shasta with a new blanket of snow.


Then Pilot Rock.


Then the trailhead. We had both worked on the PCT and Pilot Rock trail in this area.


And the trails were a favorite of Skinny’s.  We had good laughs talking about the boy.

With several miles left to go and friends to meet, we beat feet.  The sun was setting fast and it was dark by the time we got to the first trailhead.  They had just pulled up, but we still had over half a mile to go, so they drove down to the other trailhead.  On the way their headlights illuminated a black bear hanging out.  It was gone by the time we got there.

Once to the other trailhead, we arrived at the spot where we had come off the trail in August and skipped forward to complete Washington before winter hit.

To completely tie the knot, we walked up the trail about 10 feet so there was complete overlap and no doubt in our mind that we had walked the entire trail.

A kiss sealed the deal, we loaded up in the car and rode into town.



Day 192 – 25 / 2,628 (1,715)

Please help us help the PCT Association as they work to protect and maintain this precious resource: http://tinyurl.com/le5cu9j

The Lakes

After the warmest night we had experienced since early August in California, we were moving with sunrise. I was excited since we were within a short walk of my favorite mountain in Oregon – Mount Thielsen.

We’ve always appreciated it from afar, where its distinctive profile makes it obvious from all directions. But we would be traversing its lower flanks, giving a different view.



Since it’s difficult from this angle to really appreciate the unique shape of “The Lightning Rod of the Cascades“, here’s a link to an image I took of the mountain last year.

Traversing the Mount Thielsen Wilderness, we were in trees most of the day, thankfully. We were now in the midst of the longest water carry in Oregon, a full marathon between the ice cold flow of Thielsen Creek on the northwest flank of Mount Thielsen to the Rim Village on the southern rim of Crater Lake.  Not only would we need to carry the water for the distance, but also enough for dinner and breakfast since we wouldn’t make the distance in one day.

But we did get a view of our target of Mount Mazama, the remains of which are now Crater Lake.


It doesn’t look like much from here, which is one of the things I like most about Crater Lake. You don’t think much is special until you get right to the edge, then the full beauty is revealed as a complete shock.

From left to right are the individual mountains around the rim – Mount Scott, which is set back from the rim about a mile; several lesser peaks; the smooth hump of Llao Peak, a deep volcanic flow from the ancient volcano; and Hillman Peak, the highest point on the rim.

The remainder of the day was in forest as we crossed Diamond Lake Highway, transitioning from Mount Thielsen Wilderness to Crater Lake National Park. That transition also marked the slow climb to the rim of the lake.

Since the PCT is on the east side of the North Entrance road into the park, we saw no evidence of the large wildfire that burned the northwest corner of the park earlier this summer.  The firecrews did a fantastic job of using the road as a fire break.

Since the park has very strict rules of where camping is allowed, we stopped short of the rim about three miles and camped.

Day 187 – 20 / 2,511 (1,836)

A 4am alarm and a 3-mile hike in the dark put us in place at is one of my top 3 places in the world to stand and just be.


Ancient caldera, ancient Bristlecone and a sunrise. Just us, brewing and sipping coffee and getting lost in the moment.

A few moments later and a turn to the right (south) and we can see the new sunlight kiss another ancient Bristlecone and Hillman Peak, while Mount McLoughlin  (our next PCT destination) and a distant Mount Shasta lurk in the distance.


A quick turn in the opposite direction, looking to the north, we can see South and Middle Sisters, where we hiked a week before.

But it would take a short hike around the Rim Trail before we could catch a glimpse of the fabulous profile of Mount Thielsen.


The rest of the rim trail continued to give great views of the lake, many that were completely new to us, even after many prior visits to the park.  That knowledge came in handy, as at each of the turnouts we were asked for suggestions on views or hikes around the lake.  We joked that I must have had a bubble floating over my head like a clue-giver in a video game.

Between laughs, the clouds broke enough to give us a glimpse of the signature blue water of Crater Lake. Had we continued our hike in linear fashion, we would have come through in late August and wouldn’t have been able to see much due to smoke from the fires.


Soon we reached the Rim Village, where we relaxed, ate some fresh hot food, and then headed off the mountain to meet a friend who would deliver our food that we would need for our final push to Ashland.

A great visit, some tasty town food, laughs and connection with two southbound hikers with whom we had leapfrogged over the previous few days, then an after dark push a couple of miles down the trail so that we would get into the allowable backcountry camping zone marked the end of a long (but short mileage) day.

Day 188 – 16 / 2,527 (1,816)

An early morning with a tent soaking of condensation, we moved quickly and waited a couple of miles before breakfast.  Soon after that – rain.  The likes of which we hadn’t experienced since Washington.

Rain heavy enough that we were back to clearing and creating drains to get water off the trail.

It was another long water carry, but we had plenty falling and streaming around us.

We moved from Crater Lake National Park into the Sky Lakes Wilderness. Sky Lakes is an area where I’ve wanted to explore for a couple of years.  Two years ago I didn’t know enough of the area before the end of the hiking seadon, last year it was closed due to a wildfire.

This year we wouldn’t see much due to our hiking a ridgeline in the clouds.  But some views kept us entertained.


The placement of the gold pan led me to sign a popular ’80’s song, which promptly got stuck in Jen’s head.  She cursed me for that while I giggled. I’m a big enough fan of the group to know other songs to keep me entertained.

She was stuck for a while.


A hope of clearing was short-lived, but at least the rain tapered off before sunset.


A late day, a scramble to find a suitable campsite, failing at first then squeezing between two burnt-out stumps remaining from last year’s fire, then a late-night fresh rain shower meant we were in for a long, wet, not entirely comfortable night.

Day 189 – 23 / 2,550 (1,793)

Please help us help the PCT Association as they work to protect and maintain this precious resource: http://tinyurl.com/le5cu9j

To Thielsen

We were in the trees all day, so no views to share.  But we ran into this trail junction that has us intrigued.


Perhaps for another year.

Rolling into camp after sunset but before complete darkness gave us a nice view of a formation called Pulpit Rock reflected in a string of lakes called the Rosaries.

Day 184 – 25 / 2,445 (1,908)

Sunrise on Pulpit Rock over Lower Rosary Lake.


We soon crossed Willamette Pass and peeled off the PCT to follow the Oregon Skyline Trail  (OST).  This time of year the OST provides opportunities for water, where that stretch of the PCT provides an opportunity to carry water through a 30-mile dry stretch.  We’re all about opportunities, but we opted for water.

With a multi-year drought, Diamond View Lake was more of a big mud hole.  We tried to get to the water, but it was shoe-sucking deep mid, so we kept moving.


It turned out to be another day in the trees without any views, but we were moving forward and having a great time.

Day 185 – 21 / 2,466 (OST 5)

One disadvantage of picking the route with the water is that we woke up to deal with something we hadn’t worried about since Washington – condensation. Nothing like having to carry around an extra pound of water that we couldn’t drink.  Luckily we climbed out of the damp and could let the tent dry while we had lunch and collected/filtered water.

Throughout the day we kept climbing.  We figured out why everyone thinks Oregon is so cruisey – they are going downhill. But since we’re headed southbound, it’s a lot of uphill for us.  Nothing steep, but 8-10 mile gradual climbs wear on us after a while. 

Eventually we were able to get a view:


And some light play:



But all of that work got us to this:


Followed by a post-sunset view of my favorite mountain in Oregon, Mount Thielsen:


Even though camp was well above 7,000′, we had the warmest night on the trail than we have had since Northern California. We were roasting (relatively) at the same time that folks approaching the Northern Terminus were waking up to blankets of snow.

We chose well.

Day 186 – 25 / 2,491 (1,856)

Please help us help the PCT Association as they work to protect and maintain this precious resource: http://tinyurl.com/le5cu9j

Bend It

We woke up to a nice frosty day, plenty of sunshine and a short 10 miles into Elk Lake, where we would meet our Bend-based trail angels.  They would shuttle us the 30 miles into town, let us shower, launder, sleep, resupply and laugh.  A lot.

On the way we passed this.


Only 250 miles to go!

Day 181 – 10 / 2,403 (1,950)

Our Zero Day in Bend was perfect. A slow, easy morning, great lunch at a food truck, some equipment replacement, then dinner and beers at the Crux Fermentation Project.


For those that haven’t been to Bend, it’s a very outdoor oriented town. After your outdoor activities, you can pick from a few dozen brew houses.  Our kind of place.

Day 182 – 0 / 2,403 (1,950)

After a great breakfast, our angels got us back out on trail.  On the way we had a view of the nice overnight dusting of South Sister.


Hopping back on trail, we made good time.  An hour into the hike, I updated our GPS to check mileage to camp.  The blasted display said we were 1.25 miles off trail.  What the?

Apparently we had missed a turn while we were chatting and laughing about the great time we had in Bend.  Now it was time to backtrack.

Once we got back to the junction, it was easy to see our mistake.  From our original direction of travel, we exited the forest and entered a meadow where the trail went straight. Unfortunately the PCT veered to the left, which we didn’t notice.  Also, the directional sign was placed so that the northbound hikers could read it.  We never noticed it.

No big deal, it just put us an hour behind, which meant hiking after dark.  That is becoming quite common now that sunset is at 6:30 pm and getting earlier and earlier.

Day 183 – 17 / 2,420 (1,933)

Please help us help the PCT Association as they work to protect and maintain this precious resource: http://tinyurl.com/le5cu9j

Lava Sisters

*Another recreation of a blog post that this updated WordPress app has eaten.  It looks nice, but I am not impressed.

The glacier stream crossing turned out to be not much to worry about.

The south side of Mount Jefferson.


Ridge top lava fields looking at Three-Fingered Jack and Mount Washington.


Three-Fingered Jack, Mount Washington and North Sister.


Sunset view looking east towards the Oregon interior.


Day 178 –  21 / 2,347 (2,006)

Morning view of Three-Fingered Jack.


We heard a few pitter patters of rain on the tent that morning.  Spoiled by the great weather we have had since getting back to Oregon, we groaned.  Luckily it didn’t last.

Cloudy view of Mount Washington and North Sister.


Traversing an old burn area on Mount Jefferson…


…which immediately transitioned to the large lava fields north of McKenzie Pass and North Sister.


We were planning on getting 25 miles in that day, but the terrain was slowing us more than we expected, as was all of the water we had to carry through this 31 mile dry stretch.

By the time we got into the lava fields it was late afternoon and we had the prospect of crossing over three miles of loose lava rock in the dark.  On a moonless night.  We were not looking forward to that.

Then right at sunset we crossed an island of dirt in the middle of all of the lava.  A quick look at a relatively flat spot and quick recalculations on the impacts to our schedule led to putting the tent up.

We’re glad we did.

Day 179 – 21 / 2,368 (1,985)

Just for this view alone. Jen’s cloudy day sun salutation looking across the lava field at North Sister.


We crossed the lava field, then McKenzie Pass, talked to a couple of very late northbound thru-hikers (who had no delusions about their chances to make Canada before winter set in), then reached our water source in time for lunch.  Great timing as we each had only a few ounces of water left.

Then it was time to climb around North Sister, which gave us this view of our past week.


From l-r: Mount Washington, Three-Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson, and, if you look real close in the distance, Mount Hood. That’s 120+ miles of trail covered this week.

Looking towards Middle and South Sister.


Traversing the Obsidian Limited Entry Area, an amazing little gem nestled amongst the Three Sisters Wilderness.

That isn’t a wet field, but a field full of volcanic glass reflecting the sun.  Nearby there were obsidian cliffs, but we did not have the necessary permit to stray off the PCT.  That’s a reason to go back.


Sunset on South Sister.


A late push for a couple of hours after sunset put us at the base of South Sister and poised us well for a short day so we could head into Bend for resupply.

Day 180 – 25 / 2,393 (1,960)

Please help us help the PCT Association as they work to protect and maintain this precious resource: http://tinyurl.com/le5cu9j

To the Land of Jefferson

Note: the cumulative miles for the previous two days are off by 100 miles.  For Day 173, it’s 2,252 and for Day 174 it’s 2,262.  The fat fingers were flying to recreate that post.
Morning at the Timberline – we were able to sleep in a bit since the breakfast buffet didn’t open until 7:30am.  We had to hit the buffet which was, as trail rumors go, the best on the entire PCT.

It did not disappoint.

But we were bad hikers. With full bellies, we gave each other the look, and a few minutes later we were back in the room taking post-breakfast naps.  The alarm went off, giving us enough time to check out before the deadline.

I also had just enough time to recreate that last post.

Finally leaving the lodge in the very late morning, we bundled up against the wind. A cold front had moved through overnight, so it was quite blustery out.

Once back on trail, we noticed quite a few families out on the trail for short hikes, but all were headed back to the lodge.  The winds were gusting strongly into the 45-50mph range, blowing sand across the trail. Not very pleasant for anyone, especially the little ones.

I was keeping an eye on a mother and her little daughter who were coming up the hill.  I was eyeing spots to move over and let them pass when all of the sudden,

Why am I seeing the tread on the bottom of my right shoe?
Why am I landing on my knees?
Why am I looking at the trail?
Why am I looking at the sky?
Why am I looking at the trail?
Why am I looking at the sky?
Well, this is the end of the hike.

I rolled my ankle hard, then ended up rolling down the trail towards mother and daughter.

Once I stopped rolling, I quickly assessed. No excruciating pain, just me on my pack in the middle of the trail.

Jen ran up to help, but all I could do was unbuckle from my pack so I could get up.  I hopped up and didn’t have any issues other than a bit of queasiness from the dump of adrenaline.

She did a quick assessment and thought we should head back to the lodge to see how things worked out.  But I wasn’t sure we needed to backtrack the half mile back uphill.  To prove I felt fine, I walked up the trail, spun around on my right foot, then balanced on it.  Nothing felt out of sorts. But just to be sure, I checked our data and saw that we had a bailout option just five miles down the trail which would put us just a couple of miles outside the nearest town.  So at least we would be moving in the right direction.*

So we braced ourselves against the wind and blowing sand and continued. Another half mile or so and we were in the midst of a brown-out.

As we walked along the spine of a ridge, the winds coming down the southern slope of Mount Hood were being forced over the ridge and accelerating.  At its worst, we were bracing ourselves against gusts of 60-70mph carrying clouds of sand and reducing visibility to mere yards.  But we kept moving, knowing that the trail would drop over the lee side of the ridgeline and we would get out of the wind. Which we did.  Then we entered the forest, which cut the wind even further.  Which meant that only fine dust filled our sight and breath.  But eventually even that thinned out.

Soon we were at our bailout option and found no need to use it.  Other than two bloodied knees, everything felt fine.  So we continued.

After the previous few days of climbing, we finally had a day of descent and generally flat terrain.  We were in the fabled part of the trail – “Oregon is (relatively) flat (compared to California and especially Washington)”.

So we cruised.

By mid-afternoon we were able to look across the valley at Mount Hood. It was crowned with a beautiful cap cloud, but everything was hazy thanks to the dust that was still blowing off the mountain. I hoped for a better view later, but never saw the mountain again.

So no pictures from today.  Sorry about that.  But this view of Mount Jefferson from Mount Hood gives you an idea of what we’re working for the next few days.


* re: turned ankles – not a day goes by that one of us doesn’t trip, stumble or turn an ankle. Thankfully our trekking poles save us from a lot of falls.  But we have been lucky that none have led to injury.  Perhaps it’s luck that we both have strong, flexible ankles, but we haven’t been hobbled yet. 

But when we talk to day or section hikers, the most common question we get is when they see us in our trail running shoes is “how can you carry your pack over the terrain without the support of hiking boots?”.  That used to lead to longer than necessary conversations, but now the reply I’d “barring a congenital issue or previous injury, how can you expect your ankles to get stronger if you keep them wrapped in heavy supportive leather?”.

Day 175 – 18 / 2,280 (2,076)

The whole day was in the trees, with only one or two views, mostly through the trees.  But that was not a bad thing, as we had our noses down and were taking advantage of the terrain.  We had to erase any deficit from our unplanned but highly enjoyable stay at the Timberline Lodge.

As you can see by the numbers below, we also managed our longest day yet, a shade over 29 miles. 

I haven’t put miles on my feet like that since the Rodgau 50K back in 2010. Jen had never put any miles like that on her feet, but she pushed hard the whole way and just rocked it.

Now I need to find a day of helpful terrain and see if I can get her to break that 50K mark.  I just can’t tell her too much beforehand, as the distances get in her head early and she dwells on the enormity of it instead of just grinding out the miles.  She’ll get there.

Oh, and then there was this.


Day 176 – 29.17 / 2,309 (2,047)

The alarm went off and Jen was wide awake and rating to go.  Me? Not so much.  I don’t recall the many times she tried to wake me up, but she tried.  So we slept a bit more.

We had a few miles from camp to get to Olallie Lake Resort where we would resupply. Luckily they were still open, but only for a few more days, then they would close for the winter. If they were closed, somewhere here in Oregon would be a food carry for 150-180 miles.  That’s heavy.

This is the view from the dock.


Not too shabby. That’s Mount Jefferson in the distance.  We would be on its slopes before sundown.

But first we had to make it there.

But first, a fun view of Mount Hood. It was hard to believe that just 48 hours prior we were on its slopes, getting sandblasted.


Then this meadow view of Mount Jefferson. We wondered how many northbound hikers saw this view, as they would have had to stop and look behind.  This stretch for them is predominantly downhill and level all the way to the base of Mount Hood, so many push hard to get 30+, 40+, and in some cases, 50+ miles in one day.  Those paces leave little time for looking around.


We still had a few miles of climbing up to about 7,000′.  We popped up to the ridgeline and the reveal of Mount Jefferson was jaw-dropping.  I could only say “Wow!”.  Then, after a few minutes of taking it in, I told Jen that this view of the mountain could easily place it as my favorite mountain in Oregon, even higher than Mount Thielsen.  She knows how much I love Mount Thielsen, so she was a bit surprised.


We’ll see Thielsen again next week, so I can reevaluate. But for now, a couple more views.



We set up camp a bit early, just 1/4 mile shy of a glacial stream.  It’s a bit notorious of a crossing, so we’ll hit it right after sunrise when the flow is lower.

Day 177 – 17 / 2,326 (2,030)

Please help us help the PCT Association as they work to protect and maintain this precious resource: http://tinyurl.com/le5cu9j

No Sleep ‘Til Ashland

Please excuse the brevity. The new WordPress app ate this entire post, except for the title. I have but a few minutes to recreate it before we head out on trail.

Leaving Cascade Locks via the Eagle Creek Trail.



Tunnel Falls.

Day 172 – 15 / 2,237 (2,125)

The best view we’ve had of the Cascades, better than when we hiked through in late August and early September.


(l-r): Mt St Helens; Mt Rainier; Mt Adams

Then a mile later, Mt Hood.

Then a tricky log crossing. A sound of metal clanging turned out to be Jen’s titanium mug as it bounced off the tree and into the raging water below. Our stove was in the mug.

More tricky water crossings, then a glorious sunset on Mt Hood.

Day 173 – 21 / 2,352 (2,104)

An all-morning climb to Timberline Lodge, where we planned on having lunch.

Knowing that the Lodge is one of my favorite hotels, featured in the film The Shining, Jen snuck down to the lobby and negotiated a great deal on a room for the night. It wasn’t part of the plan, but it worked out well and didn’t put us too far behind.

Plus, with much less climbing in the week ahead, we could slowly regain the miles we “lost”.

(why do I get a sense of foreboding as I typed that?)

Day 174 – 10 / 2,362 (2,094)

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Canada! Now Oregon

Overnight, the clouds that threatened rain passed over with just occasional light sprinkles.

The alarm went off at 6am.  By 605am it started raining.  In ernest.  We had a few hours until we had to meet our friend at the border, so we didn’t rush to break camp.

It rained the entire time, ensuring we packed away wet gear.

Just 10 minutes down the trail, it quit raining.

Just our luck.

Soon we were at the border.  The end of the official PCT.  The northern terminus.

A cause for celebration, but we still have over 400 miles to go as we finish Oregon.

Soon after, our Canadian friend arrived from Manning Park, some 9 miles distant and the end of the extension of the PCT into Canada.

After hugs and getting caught up, he opened his pack and broke out a brilliant picnic lunch – Stiegel radlers (a favorite Austrian wheat beer with grapefruit juice); sandwiches of hard salami, cheese and mustard; stuffed olives; smoked gouda and sliced cantaloupe.

Pure brilliance.

After lunch, he led the way to the  Manning Park trailhead, where we hopped in his car and headed home.  This portion of the trail was done.

And we beat winter, which was the whole purpose of skipping Oregon to get Washington done.

For those of you wondering where the customary pictures of us at the northern terminus monument are, you will have to wait.  We won’t post those until we have actually completed the trail.

Until then, we’re going to relax a few days here in Canada, then head back to Oregon so we can complete that section of the trail.

Day 167 – 4 (+9) / 2,222 (2,650 + 9)

Two Zeroes in Penticton, British Columbia, then a drive to Cascade Locks, Oregon, then a Zero to plan our resupply through Oregon, buy food and get ready to head south.

Getting the true Canadian experience with a third breakfast stop at a Tim Hortons food truck.  Donuts and coffee. Pic courtesy of Don Smith.


Day 168 thru 171 – 0 / 2,222

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No Sleep ‘Til Canada

We had a long but gradual climb that would take almost all day, have us cross Rainy Pass (the last paved road we would cross until Canada), then entry back into the high Cascades.




By mid-afternoon it was obvious that I still hadn’t recovered from whatever ailed me the previous week.  Although the 12 miles of climbing was not tough climbing, it took its toll on me and instead of a planned 23 miles, we called it short.

We knew we would pay for that decision later.

Day 164 – 17 / 2,170 (2,598)

We woke up to heavy frost and a few new holes in our food bags.

The little bears made a return overnight.  Again, luckily nothing critical was nibbled on.

Our view from camp right after sunrise.


A short climb, a long descent, a long ascent, a long ridgeline traverse and a short descent into camp at Hart’s Pass, the last road of any sort we would see until we were well into Canada.

The landscape through this stretch was stunning.  We were glad to have the views, knowing that a new storm was approaching and we would likely be in clouds and rain again.

This landscape was dominated by Western Larch, or Tamarack, a conifer that is actually deciduous, with its needles turning in autumn and then dropping.  It’s a beautiful tree.



Jen taking it all in.


Day 165 – 22 / 2,192 (2,620)

From Hart’s Pass, the Canadian Border was in reach, just 30 trail miles away.  For us it wasn’t reachable in one day, but very comfortably in two.

Except we had a planned meeting with a Canadian friend at the border for mid-morning the next day.  That compressed our schedule a bit.

So we cranked out our most epic trail day yet.  Heck, even if we turn out a higher mileage day in Oregon, it won’t have the vertical that this day had, so this will probably stand as our most epic.


With clouds threatening rain, and rain showers visible on the horizon as the sun set, we pushed past our planned campsite to another one an hour past.  That meant we had an hour to push past sunset, but it would get us an hour closer to the border, which also meant we could wake up at our normal time instead of waking up an hour early.  That was a trade we were both willing to make.

The data:  26.89 miles, just .10 shy of our 26.99 headed into Seiad Valley. However, today was +5,500’/-6,200′, where the push into Seiad Valley was a much crusier +3,100’/-7,900′.

Day 166 – 26 / 2,218 (2,646)

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